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The Basics of a Class Action Lawsuit

Filed by a Group or an Individual

A class-action lawsuit can be filed by an individual or group of individuals. When it is filed by one individual, that person is known as the lead plaintiff or the class representative. It is considered a class action in that it is filed on behalf of a large group of people who have all suffered similar damages. This larger group is known as the class. Anyone who meets the criteria of the class is known as a class member.

Types of Class Actions

Class action lawsuits frequently involve defective products, like toys, construction products, or household appliances. They may also involve misleading advertising, consumer fraud, or in the case of defective products, a failure to warn about dangers associated with the use of the product. In Chicago, these types of cases are handled by a Chicago class action lawyer on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Complaint and the Class Action Notice

A complaint is a legal document that starts a class action lawsuit. It is filed in a court of law and describes the facts of the case. The class action notice is sent to class members if the case settles. If you are a class member, you may receive this notice in the mail, and it will contain information about the case, the settlement, and how you can claim your portion of the settlement proceeds.

You may not realize you are part of a class action unless you receive a notice informing you of the settlement. Additionally, if class members’ identities are unknown, notices may be published in newspapers or magazines likely to be read by the class members.

Opting Out / Opting In

Very few people opt out of class action settlements, as being a class member does not cost anything and you can’t “get in trouble” for participating in a class-action lawsuit. Nevertheless, you are always free to opt-out if you don’t want to participate.

Some class-action lawsuits, often those involving allegations of wage and hour violations, are opt-in lawsuits. With this type of lawsuit, eligible class members will have to elect to join the case in order to receive their portion of any court award or settlement. Potential class members may receive a notice explaining how to join the case.


Class action lawsuits may go to trial, but most are settled prior to trial. Generally, class members each receive the same amount of compensation from a settlement. Occasionally, a formula will be used to calculate the amount of compensation owed to each class member and it will be uniformly applied to the entire class. If there is any money left over, it will either be distributed to the remaining class members or donated to a non-profit or charity organization.

The Chicago class action lawyers representing a class will only receive compensation if they win. The attorneys usually receive a fee award (separate from the settlement), or a percentage of the settlement fund. The fee request must be reviewed and approved by a judge to make sure it is reasonable.

Class Action vs. Mass Tort

Mass tort lawsuits are not the same as class action lawsuits. Generally involving dangerous drugs or defective pharmaceutical devices, mass tort lawsuits must be filed individually – even if a defective medical device injured thousands of patients. The only way an injured person will receive compensation is to file his or her own lawsuit.

Contact Our Chicago Class Action Lawyer

If you believe you have a case that may qualify as a class action lawsuit, reach out to Zimmerman Law Offices. One of our Chicago class action attorneys will be happy to discuss your case and explain your options.


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